The US Senate and House appropriations conference bill for 2006 has been passed with a number of provisions for the nuclear industry.

The Energy and Water Appropriations $30.5 billion bill makes appropriations for the Department of Energy (DoE), the Bureau of Reclamation and the Corps of Engineers.

For the DoE, the Conference report provides $24.3 billion, of which $557.6 million is earmarked for nuclear energy. The total budget is $76.5 million above the President’s request although it comes in at $129 million below the 2005 level.

Of the $226 million included for nuclear energy research and development, $66 million is allocated for the Nuclear Power 2010 programme, a cost-sharing plan to aid industry in navigating the new licensing process at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) by subsidising 50% of the cost for three separate combined construction and operating licence (COL) applications. A further $55 million is allocated for Generation IV research, of which $40 million is earmarked for the Next Generation Nuclear Plant programme; and the Advanced Fuel Cycle Initiative will receive $80 million.

The Conference report provides $450 million for work on the Yucca Mountain repository, a significant cut from the $577 million in each of the last two years and $201 million below the request. This funding includes $100 million for nuclear waste disposal and $350 million for defence nuclear waste disposal.  In addition, the Conference agreement provides $50 million for the energy secretary to plan for and initiate a competitive site selection process to develop one or more integrated spent fuel recycling facilities. Additional resources are also provided to the Office of Nuclear Energy, Science and Technology to develop an advanced spent fuel recycling technology for the country.

Language is also included directing the DoE to begin a spent nuclear fuel recycling plan and to set up a competition to determine if there are communities or states that want to volunteer to be the site for a recycling reprocessing facility.

Defence environmental cleanup programmes are funded at $6.19 billion, an increase of $177 million over the request.  Of this amount, $157.4 million is the addition of NNSA (National Nuclear Security Administration) cleanup activities, initially proposed in the request as transferring to NNSA. The Conference report provides $526 million for the Hanford Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant. 

The bill also provides a total budget of $734.3 million for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), an increase of $41 million over the President’s request and $41 million above the current year level, which will be used to support the licensing of next generation reactors. The NRC will also be required to undertake a security assessment of on-site pool storage of spent nuclear fuel.

The bill terminates the Nuclear Energy Plant Optimisation programme, but includes $290 million to restore funding for domestic fusion research under the Office of Science.